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If you have a German Shepherd or are planning to get one, you probably want to know how long you can enjoy their company. It also helps to know the things you can do to keep your dog healthy and happy for years to come.
How Long Do German Shepherds Live?
German Shepherds have an average life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. Of course, many GSDs have lived well beyond this predicted lifespan. They can live longer or shorter lives depending on several factors, including their genetic predispositions, their environment, and their lifestyles. Sometimes, it is also a matter of luck.
What Is The Longest A German Shepherd Has Lived?
Unfortunately, there isn’t an open registry that tracks how long individual German Shepherds live around the world. So, it’s difficult to track the longest a GSD has ever lived for.
Nevertheless, it’s common for GSD owners to report having had their dogs for 18 years and over.
Here’s a video of a 21-year-old GSD named Abby still looking healthy and vivacious, albeit slightly grayed and slowed down by elderly joints.
What Factors Contribute To Increasing Your GSD’s Lifespan?
Although some circumstances that affect your German Shepherd’s life are out of your control, there are some things you can do to increase your dog’s chances of living a long life.
Here are the most important factors that contribute to your dog’s lifespan:
Your dog’s physical wellbeing is the primary factor that contributes to a longer lifespan. Ensuring this involves not only the right diet but also ample exercise and proper grooming.
Your dog should be sheltered in a clean and safe environment. Not only should they have comfortable living conditions but also a home that’s free of toxic plants and poisonous chemicals.
You should also make sure your German Shepherd can’t access potentially harmful human food.
A high-quality diet is essential to increasing your dog’s chances of living a long and healthy life. Whether you choose dry kibble or wet dog food, make sure to provide the nutrients necessary for your German Shepherd’s life stage and specific dietary requirements.
Regular vet examinations will help prevent disease or catch them early on for effective treatment.
It’s also critical to give your dog their vaccinations on time to keep them from catching serious yet completely preventable diseases. Additionally, make sure you follow your vet’s advice regarding parasite prevention.
Your attentiveness as a pet parent contributes immensely to your dog’s lifespan not only for their physical health and grooming but also their happiness.
German Shepherds thrive best when part of a family unit and so are happiest when they can plan an active part in their owners’ lives.
What Factors Decrease Your GSD’s Lifespan?
Several factors could shorten your German Shepherd’s life. It’s important to learn about them so you know what to avoid or watch out for.
To help you determine the best ways to care for your GSD, here are the most crucial factors that contribute to a shortened lifespan:
Accidents are definitely beyond your control, but they, unfortunately, do happen even to the most careful pet parents.
However, you can limit potential accidents by keeping your German Shepherd in a gated or fenced-in home. Also, keep them on a lead when walking outside.
Your dog can suffer from malnutrition both when it is underfed and overfed. Make sure you speak to your vet about the right portion for your dog’s size, weight, and specific health condition.
Additionally, keeping your dog nourished isn’t just about giving them food in the right portions. It is also about the quality of food and the nutrients they can absorb from it.
Lack of Exercise
Not having enough opportunities for exercise won’t just make your dog more likely to develop bad behaviors but will also make them physically unfit. Being able to walk, run, and play keeps their muscles toned, their heart strong, and their lungs healthy.
High anxiety dogs are likely to live shorter lives. It’s critical to make sure your dog is properly socialized and comfortable in their environment to minimize their stress and enable them to live a long and happy life. Giving them mental exercises or a job to do also helps keep them mentally sound.
Canine illnesses can be genetic, developed, or caught. While vaccinations and parasite prevention can play a huge part in keeping your dog healthy, it pays to visit your vet regularly and be wary of changes in your dog’s behavior.
Common Illnesses GSDs Can Acquire
German Shepherds from responsible breeders are generally healthy. That’s primarily because professional breeders test their breeding stock before selecting them from reproduction.
Nevertheless, German Shepherds are naturally predisposed to certain illnesses. These include:
Elbow & Hip Dysplasia
Elbow and hip dysplasia are conditions wherein the hip or elbow’s ball and socket do not fit properly. This affects the dog’s gait and causes severe pain. In some cases, it could lead to lameness.
These conditions are often associated with German Shepherds, although they are actually common to large and giant breeds. In fact, responsible selective breeding has already lowered the incidence of these conditions among today’s GSDs.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)—more commonly known as bloat—is a potentially fatal condition wherein the stomach dilates.
As the condition progresses, the stomach could twist and keep gas and food from being expelled. Pressure builds up and causes pain, loss of circulation, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, the stomach ruptures and causes death.
To avoid life-threatening bloat, it’s better to feed German Shepherds two smaller meals per day rather than a single large meal. Avoiding high-fat kibble will also help lower the risk for this condition.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a chronic disease that affects the spinal cord. It is a progressive condition that slowly causes weakness and eventual paralysis of the hind legs.
The genetic mutation that makes dogs more likely to develop this condition is most common in GSDs as well as other large breeds like Collies, Siberian Huskies, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. It occurs mostly in dogs that are 4 years or older.
Do Large Dogs Have Shorter Lifespans Than Smaller Dogs?
Unfortunately for owners of German Shepherds and other large dogs, size contributes to longevity. This can be observed by simply comparing the average life expectancies of different breeds.
For example, Chihuahuas live between 14 and 16 years while Saint Bernards live from 8 to 10 years old, on average. Similarly, Jack Russell Terriers have a longer average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years compared to Newfoundland’s 9-10 years.
This curious fact was the subject of a study published by the University of Chicago Press for the American Society of Naturalists in 2013. According to the researchers behind the study, larger dogs grow at a more accelerated pace and so their lives unwind more quickly.
Additionally, the growth rate of large dogs increases their risk for abnormal cell growth, which is commonly associated with cancer. They also suffer from age-related illnesses much sooner than slow-growing smaller breeds do.
When we welcome dogs into our lives, we want to enjoy their company for as long as possible. Although you can have a good idea of how long they might live based on their breed’s average life expectancy, there are many things you can do to keep your dog as healthy and happy as possible so that they may live long and meaningful lives.
Additionally, as dogs reach their senior years, they will inevitably experience age-related illnesses like weaker joints and arthritis. To give your German Shepherd the best chance of aging comfortably, ask your vet about giving your dog some joint supplements as soon as they’ve stopped growing.